The Strip and Gore Doctrine is a rather unique doctrine to Texas. This primarily comes into play when narrow strips (like roadways) or gores (small triangular pieces of land) are not expressly conveyed or reserved by deeds for land that sit on either side of the strip, or when there is no other documentation available in the public county records to show ownership of a strip or gore. When this occurs, there tend to be disputes between the owners of the tracts of land on either side regarding who owns the strip or gore.
The Strip and Gore Doctrine provides a method to help settle these disputes and ascertain ownership. This doctrine maintains a public-policy presumption that the grantor in a land sale or transfer does not intend to retain title to an adjacent strip or gore if it had no practical value to the grantor at the time of conveyance and it was not expressly reserved in the deed. Let’s lay that out in an easy-to-understand example:
Sarah decides to buy a tract of land from her friend Robert, and that tract of land is bounded by a roadway on one side. Robert conveys the tract of land to Sarah, but he does not include any language on the deed regarding the roadway that borders the tract of land. Does Sarah now own the roadway or does Robert still own it? Well, under the Strip and Gore Doctrine, Sarah now owns the roadway, because Robert did not expressly reserve ownership to the roadway in the deed language.
In addition to analyzing the language of the deed, the application of the Doctrine can be tricky because there is no true formula or standard to analyze the value of the strip or gore. These cases are very fact specific, and the measure of value can vary by case. A good example comes from a 2018 Texas Court of Appeals case, Green v. Chesapeake Exploration, L.L.C., No. 02-17-00405-CV, 2018 WL 6565790 (Tex. App.—Fort Worth Dec. 13, 2018, no pet.) (mem. op.). In this case, the strip in question was a road with minerals underneath the land. The court found that it was completely unreasonable to conclude that the grantor intended to retain the strip because the minerals beneath were undevelopable and practically valueless.
The Strip and Gore Doctrine is not always clear in its application and must be analyzed on a case-by-case basis. It is important to work with an experienced real estate attorney if you are in an ownership dispute regarding a strip or gore adjacent to a tract of land.
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